Bring-your-own-device exam for UBC Sauder BComs is cheap, efficient, and highly effective

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Even exams are going paperless these days. UBC Sauder has scaled up that trend with a bring-your-own-device exam this month that had over 1,200 students taking an exam over the wireless network on UBC’s learning management system at the same time.

“It has saved us thousands of dollars and over 200 working hours of grading,” says Rob Peregoodoff, director of learning services at UBC Sauder.

It wasn’t the first time an exam had been taken online, but having such a large class taking the exam set a new benchmark for the school. For a smaller class the exam would have taken place in a computer lab, but with 1,266 students, the only way to make it work was to have the students bring their own laptops into the exam room.

The exam was a midterm for a statistics class, COMM 291, led by lecturers Jonathan Berkowitz and Greg Werker.

Berkowitz says he was initially hesitant to try online exams, calling himself a late adopter of new technology, but he saw a clear need when the course was expanded this year.

“There’s no way we could have dealt with almost 1,300 exams by hand,” he says.

But he says he’s now “converted” to the new assessment style, and found that a computer was a more reliable marker than a person – at least for a numbers-based class like statistics. “The student complaints of mismarked papers dried up this year,” he says.

As a statistician, Berkowitz says the online format gives him the tools he needs to improve his exams. Having the results of every question automatically tabulated allows him to learn which questions were too hard or too easy, and which ones were the best measures of student learning.

But most of all, he says he likes all the time that’s been saved by not needing to spend long hours marking.

“Once the exam is written, it’s done,” Berkowitz says, adding that the students saw their results within 48 hours of taking the exam, instead of having to wait a couple weeks for grading.

The UBC Sauder lecturers aren’t the only ones appreciating the new system. The Free University of Berlin has invited Peregoodoff to their campus to speak about the exam this week.

“To my knowledge, there isn’t another university in the world attempting BYOD exams with this many students all at once under these conditions – over Wi-Fi, with a learning management system,” says Peregoodoff, who says the exam designed by Berkowitz and Werker is exemplary in the way it makes the most of its online format.

“They have set a new standard in university assessment,” he says.